February 20, 2019

Gun drawn in driver conflict at exit 12

Ethan Connor

Nicholas Mallow

By Alan J. Keays

For VTDigger

Vermont State Police say two men are facing charges for allegedly squaring-off during a road-rage incident that started on Interstate 89 in Williston, with one man punching the other, prompting that man to reach for a gun and point it at the man who just socked him in the face, all while other morning commuters looked on.

Police said the incident started around 7:30 a.m. Monday on the interstate between French Hill and exit 12.

State Police Cpl. Andrew Leise said Ethan Connor, 29, of Waterbury, was speeding and tailgating Nicholas Mallow, 30, of Richmond. At exit 12, Mallow confronted Connor, getting out of his truck, going up to Connor’s car and punching him in the face.

Connor then pulled a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol from a holster under his steering wheel, got out of his vehicle, and pointed the firearm at Mallow as Mallow walked back to his truck, Leise wrote in a public release.

“It should be noted that at the time of this incident other innocent bystanders were exiting I89 on the Exit 12 off ramp in the direction Connor was pointing his .40 caliber pistol,” the release stated.

Connor was charged with negligent operation for driving erratically, as well as reckless endangerment for putting other citizens at risk, according to Leise.

Mallow was charged with simple assault for punching Connor, he wrote.

Both men were issued citations to appear Sept. 11 for an arraignment on the charges in Chittenden County Superior criminal court in Burlington.

Leise, in an interview later Monday, said it appeared the incident started as Mallow was in the right lane of the interstate heading north and came upon a tractor-trailer in front of him trying to climb French Hill and driving slowly.

That’s when Mallow tried to get into a “gap” in the traffic in the left lane to try to pass the slower tractor-trailer, the corporal said.

“He got into the left lane and once he did, Connor started tailgating him,” Leise said. “So (Connor’s) tailgating, tailgating, tailgating, and he goes to move to the right lane to try to pass (Mallow) and some sort of gesturing happens.”

And that’s what led to the confrontation at the exit, according to Leise, only a short distance away from the state police barracks in Williston.

The reason Connor was charged with reckless endangerment is because there were other motorists on the off-ramp when the incident took place, Leise said.

“Although he has a right to defend himself,” the corporal said of Connor, “he doesn’t have the right to put other people in a very public place at risk.”

Leise said he regularly patrols the interstate and sees quite a bit of aggressive driving.

“It’s going on out there, every single day. I guess the best way I can put it is people are just not being considerate of other people,” he said. “Sometimes, things start to escalate and tempers get flared and they start to make decisions they wouldn’t normally be making.”

Leise added, “These two people actively engaged in a road-rage incident and they ended up both being charged. That’s what we’re going to continue to do when we have those incidents out there.”

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